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How does a psychologist compare and contrast to a psychiatrist?

I do know the education requirements and salaries are different, but what about the actual tasks? Can they both diagnose mental disorders or is that only the job of one? Can psychiatrists offer talk therapy in addition to medication, or do they just prescribe the meds? Which would be more direct in helping people through their mental illnesses?

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Katherine’s Answer

Hi Adilay! Just in terms of wanting to learn more about what can be helpful and direct in helping people, you will want to become familiar with some good professionals who have put out good books and podcasts etc.--look up John Townsend, Henry Cloud, Les and Leslie Parrott, Gary Chapman, Ross Campbell, John and Julie Gottman, Terry Real, and John Delony and get familiar with the kinds of things they say and write and teach, as well as John Gray's books What You Feel You Can Heal and Beyond Mars and Venus; and you could also work to become at least somewhat familiar with 12-step programs and what their tradition and culture are. Knowing about these resources can let you know the kinds of conversations that are happening in relation to various important things that many people come to psychologists for help with, and let you start to know what you would want to look into further or form your own opinions.
Thank you comment icon That's great advice, thank you! I'll look into those. Adilay
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Judith-Ann’s Answer

Adilay, this is a question that confuses people all the time, so I am glad you are asking. In the mental health field, there are therapists who can be Psychiatrists or Psychologists
The difference is that psychiatrists are trained in medical school, have a medical degree, and can prescribe medications.
A psychologist is degreed through the psychology department and has a PhD in psychology. They usually run tests to determine various diagnosis for mental health and learning styles.
Both can be direct and offer talk therapy. Both can work in hospitals and treatment facilities and both can have their own private practice. It really depends on the style of each individual as to how they create the therapeutic event for each client. If a person needs meds, they must see a psychiatrist or their General Practitioner.
This is the basic facts of the difference. If you need more information, it might be helpful to look on line at forums like Psychology Today or Zocdoc and read the profiles of MD AND PHD. This will give you the first steps to decide which path might be right for you.
off to see the Wizard and the yellow brick road! Life is an adventure.
Thank you comment icon Thank you for the clarification, it was super helpful. Adilay
Thank you comment icon You are so welcome, Adilay. Glad to help. Judith-Ann Anderson
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Javier’s Answer

Hello Adilay,

This is a very good question. The simple, perhaps overgeneralized, answer, is that the modern psychiatrist is an expert prescribing psychopharmacologist and mental health treatment coordinator/manager, for their patients diagnosed with neuropsychiatric disorders. With regards to talk therapy, psychiatrists do receive post-graduate residency training to become adept at some of the more common, statistically effective, modalities; however in the actually day to day, practice of treating patients, insurance companies pay licensed talk therapists to provide psychotherapy, which is typically ordered by a treating psychiatrist (MD or DO), who is managing and coordinating patient care. For psychiatrists, this type of “doctor to patient” implementation of care varies depending on the subspecialty of psychiatry, the setting, and available patient and clinic/hospital resources. Licensed talk therapists, referred to as “psychologists” may pursue either a PsyD or PhD, degree, where the latter career path typically requires a longer duration of training, but where both are trained to provide talk therapy to patients. Finally, there are various areas of specialization amongst clinical psychologists, for example clinical neuropsychologists who specialize in neuropsychological testing.

JP Escalera, MD
Thank you comment icon Thanks for the help! Adilay
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